Abarim Publications' online Biblical Hebrew Dictionary
The two roots קהל (qhl) and קול (qwl) appear to be related in form, and their meanings obviously overlap:
- The masculine noun קהל (qahal), meaning assembly, company or congregation. It may denote an assembly with specific intend (Genesis 49:6), or a gathering of soldiers ready to invade (Numbers 22:4). It may denote a company of returning exiles (Jeremiah 31:8), or people grouped up to hear a message (Deuteronomy 5:19). It's also the word used to indicate an organized body of people, such as Israel (Micah 2:5), or even angels (Psalm 89:6). The Latin translation of this noun is most often ekklesia and sometimes sunagoge.
- The denominative verb קהל (qahal), meaning to assemble into any of the groups described by the noun קהל (qahal). Our verb is used when people gather for war (2 Samuel 20:14), but most often with religious intent (Joshua 18:1, Numbers 10:7) or festivals (1 Kings 8:2).
- The feminine equivalent of the masculine noun: קהלה (qehilla). This noun is used only in Deuteronomy 33:4 and Nehemiah 5:7.
- The masculine noun מקהל (maqhel), meaning assembly. It's used twice in the Bible, in Psalm 26:12 and Psalm 68:27, possibly with the meaning of choir, or else audience or the partakers in a worship service.
The root קול (qwl) also occurs throughout the Semitic language spectrum, producing verbs that have to do with speaking, and nouns that have to do with sound or voice. In the Bible only the masculine noun קול (qol) occurs.
The noun קול (qol) basically means voice, or rather a sound that carries the identity of whatever brings it forth. Thus it may denote the sound of a human voice (Genesis 27:22, Joshua 6:10) or even articulated speech (Genesis 3:17, Genesis 22:18), an official proclamation (Exodus 36:6, 2 Chronicles 24:9) or the words/sound of an angel (Isaiah 6:4, Daniel 8:16).
But that our word basically denotes a distinguishing sound rather than specifically a human voice is demonstrated by its use to describe the bleating of sheep (1 Samuel 15:14), the lowing of cattle (Jeremiah 9:9), the neighing of horses (Jeremiah 8:16), the roaring of lions (Amos 3:4) or the singing of birds (Nahum 2:8). Our word may even denote the sound of a musical instrument (Exodus 9:16), even the stamping of hoofs (Jeremiah 47:3), the crack of a whip (Nahum 3:2), the roar of the sea (Habakkuk 3:10), and many other distinctive sounds.